12 awesome outdoor toys for kids of all ages
Our favorite activities for summertime fun
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With summer vacation plans curtailed by COVID-19, finding ways to keep your kids entertained at home is likely at the top of your to do list. While they're no substitute for a tropical vacation, these outdoor activities will provide some hot weather relief for parents and kids alike. Whether you’ve got toddlers or teenagers, you’ll find at least one item on this list that’s sure to be a hit with your offspring.
1. A water table for hours of fun
Little kids love to play in the water. Keep them occupied—and the mess contained—with the Little Tikes Island Wavemaker Water Table. With five built-in play stations—including a wheel that makes waves—the Island Wavemaker water table provides hours of engagement with minimal parental involvement (the gold standard for toys). It comes with island-themed characters, including a shark, a mermaid, a narwhal, a pirate on a boat, and a treasure chest, and the center island turns into a fun waterfall when kids pour water from the top. It's easy to put together, and kids will love splashing around all summer long.
2. A super fun sprinkler
Running through the sprinklers has been a favorite summer activity for many generations, but the Melissa & Doug Sunny Patch Blossom Bright Sprinkler takes this classic outdoor entertainment to the next level. Simply attach the colorful flower bouquet to a garden hose, and let the kids frolic to their heart's delight. The spray height can be elevated or lowered simply by adjusting the water pressure.
3. A basketball hoop that lasts
Get your older kids outside—and off of their devices—with the Lifetime Portable Basketball Hoop. One of the best features of this basketball hoop is that the height can be raised or lowered, making it a more-than-just-one-season toy. The base is portable (it has wheels) so that it can easily be moved around even once it's full of sand. Concerned that it won't stand up to your destined-for-the-Lakers kid? The classic rim, all-weather net, and shatterproof backboard can withstand most of the toughest dunks.
4. Bubbles as big as them
It's pretty much a guarantee that little kids will spill bubbles everywhere, which is why they are an "outside only" toy at my house. My children's love for bubbles knows no bounds, so we're constantly on the hunt for bubble toys that don't break after just one use. The WOWmazing Giant Bubble Wands Kit has been a huge (pun intended) hit at our house, because it really works and the kids can do it themselves—though they do end up pretty soapy. It comes with everything your kids need to make ginormous bubbles: a giant bubble maker, a pouch of WOWmazing Bubble Concentrate, and a little tips booklet to help you create outstanding large bubbles.
5. A soccer game you can take anywhere
Have a kid who likes to kick a ball around? Encourage their soccer habit from a young age with a Pop Up Goal set. The colorful, portable goals come in three sizes: 2.5 ft., 4 ft., and 6 ft., and they easily unfold with a simple twist. Our executive editor TJ Donegan is a die-hard fan; he's told me I need to buy these at least six times.
6. A new spin on sidewalk chalk
Take your child's "chalk your walk" messages to the next level this summer with a set of truly unique sidewalk chalk. We love the selection at Maisonette, but we're especially partial to the Sushi Sidewalk chalk that looks just like a take-out box of sushi. The set includes ten sidewalk chalk sushi rolls in a variety of colors: pink, orange, yellow, green, and blue. The vibrant colors are beautiful and the chunky pieces are great for little hands.
7. Island-inspired snow cones
While it's not technically a toy, the Little Snowie 2 Shaved Ice Machine is by far one of the best things I got for the kids last summer. We've always had a shaved ice machine of one type or another, but the Little Snowie is the only one I've found that my kids can actually operate themselves. It makes the smoothest shaved ice, and the design of the machine creates a perfectly rounded shape, just like one would get in Hawaii. A few sample-size flavors are included, but you can also make your own if you prefer something healthier. I'm planning to leave the Little Snowie set-up on my patio all summer so that the kids can help themselves to refreshing snacks, and I might even make myself a shaved ice frosé.
8. A sprinkler just for babies
Keep your baby cool during the hottest summer days with the SainSmart Jr. Kids Water Splash Mat. A wading pool and splash pad in one, all you have to do is attach the garden hose to start the fountain effect. The height of the spray can be adjusted by turning the faucet up or down.
9. An easy way to take the dance party outside
Kids love a good outdoor summertime dance party. Take the tunes outside with our top-rated portable Bluetooth speaker. The Anker Soundcore 2 is very simple to operate and the buttons are huge, so smaller children can easily control the volume and the playlist. Older kids can probably manage the Bluetooth set-up themselves, but younger ones will need some parental assistance to get started. It's also waterproof, which is a major plus when small children are involved. Just be prepared to have to listen to your child's favorite song over and over and over again. May we suggest investing in some earplugs as well?
10. A way to talk—without cellphones
One of the best gifts my kids ever received was a set of these pink and blue camouflage walkie talkies. They love exploring the neighborhood and talking to one another from both our backyard and our neighbors' yards. It takes a certain amount of hand-eye coordination to push the button while talking, but kids should be able to manage it by approximately age four. Be sure to keep extra batteries on hand, because kids often forget to power them down when they're done playing, but if you want a toy that will keep them busy—and engage their imagination—this is just the thing. Walkie talkies are perfect for city and suburb dwellers alike: Take them to the park, or use them inside an apartment building for hours of fun during the hottest days of summer and the coldest days of winter.
11. Kid-friendly darts
Everyone loves a good game of darts, and this Doinkit Darts version is safe for all ages because it's magnetic. We have it hanging on the wall of our back patio, and the kids challenge each other to a game at least once per day. Playing darts is good for their hand-eye coordination, but it also works their math skills when they try (and usually fail) to add up their points. It's not just our kids who love it either: Whenever we host adult parties most of the guests get in on the fun, too.
12. Grill up fun
If there's a Grill Master in your family that your child likes to emulate, the Melissa & Doug Wooden Rotisserie & Grill Barbecue Play Set will be a huge hit. I am partial to nice-quality wooden toys, and this cute set fits the bill. My kids have enjoyed grilling up pretend feasts, and I like that the set is not a giant plastic eyesore. It's compact and easy to store once summer ends, and the nice selection of pieces—grill tools, condiments, and a kabob—often find their way into other types of imaginative play.
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.